May 29, 2010

When students go missing

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When University of Iowa student Jacques Similhomme, the son of a refugee Haitian preacher mysteriously disappeared on Sept. 28, 2009, his father pleaded with university, police and media officialdom to help find his son.

For the most part, he met silence.

In sharp contrast, when Iowa State University student Jonathan Lacina, son of a Grinnell lawyer, disappeared, officialdom galvanized the community into a mass search.

Dessalines Similhomme, Jacques’ grieving and angry father, still wants to know why the authorities and The University of Iowa did so little to help him.

In the first collaborative effort of The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, IowaWatch Staff Writer Jim Malewitz and The Cedar Rapids Gazette provide the answers in “Study in Contrasts: 2 Students Go Missing, and the Responses are Incredibly Different.”

(ALSO: Read about the collaboration on the Gazette’s blog).

Among the Center’s findings:

The University of Iowa – in contrast to other institutions – has no specific policy for notifying the public when students go missing;

• Local law enforcement agencies lack the resources to launch searches when adults go missing;

• Communication between universities, families of the missing, police, and local media sometimes prevents today’s newsroom from reporting on cases to garner attention.

For a complete multimedia account, see thegazette.com.

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